Defend the right of legitimate peaceful protest - demand no legislating for buffer zones

Defend the right of legitimate peaceful protest - demand no legislating for buffer zones

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Human Rights started this petition to Simon Harris (Minister For Health) and

The proposed legislation on 'safe zones' to be announced shortly by the Irish government will place restrictions on what has previously been accepted as legitimate forms of protest outside health buildings in opposition to the legalisation of abortion in Ireland. The legislation is currently facing strong criticism particularly in view of its lack of any pain relief for the foetus or baby during the abortion procedure. The public reaction to this has been strong and heavily critical. A recent response to what has been roundly condemned as inhumane and even barbaric saw a small group of 7 Irish citizens who conducted a silent, respectful and orderly protest outside a local GP practice which was identified as offering abortion services.  There was no attempt made by the protestors to block, impede or obstruct either staff or service users entering or leaving the building. The reaction by some groups and individuals online to what one would imagine was on the face of it a very small token legitimate protest has been excessive and extremely abusive in some cases with even threats to their person and safety.  

Implementation of any buffer zones is controversial and has already been deemed 'disproportionate' or excessive by the British Home Secretary in September, 2018 in respect of similar calls for buffer zones around abortion clinics in England & Wales as it was considered that the threat to women was so minimal that it didn't merit such drastic steps to be taken that would put in jeopardy a legitimate right to protest. Under the CRIMINAL JUSTICE (PUBLIC ORDER) ACT, 1994 there is more than sufficient scope to penalise anyone who infringes the terms of sections 5, 6 and 7 of the act but it is seriously in doubt whether any of the anti-abortion protests to date have even reached minimum threshold for the state to accuse the protestors of breaching any aspects of the PUBLIC ORDER ACT.  Therefore the question must be asked as to why it is necessary for the state to introduce yet more legislation. Furthermore, to date there are no exclusion or buffer zones in operation in any European country and this is something which must be borne in mind by those who argue for its introduction as it sets some very questionable or dangerous precedents in terms of the future functioning of democracy, civil liberties and the right to protest in Ireland. Some hardline pro-abortion advocates have tried since the protest to widen such legislation to even include 'passive intimidation' which literally criminalises anyone standing silently within the area of the buffer zone with no engagement with any of the women who are entering or leaving the GP practice. Even without any graphic images etc on display such persons would be deemed in breach of the laws under prohibition of any form of 'passive intimidation' by merely being there.

Apart from being way over the top, such a law would roll back women's rights to protest by assigning its legal status to which side of the debate or issue on abortion they are on and could be judged discriminatory against pro-life protestors and unjustly targeting them when pro-choice campaigners during last years referendum campaign faced no such restrictions or criminalisation despite protesting outside hospitals on occasion. Groups within Irish society from a broad spectrum of political opinions and society are concerned that such legislation would be the thin edge of a concerted attempt by the Irish government to place even more restrictions in future on civil liberties and the legitimate right to protest. They are also equally concerned that it could prove to be the smokescreen for more legislation to follow that would criminalise any opposition to government policies on austerity, health, housing, utilities or immigration.

Make your voice heard, please sign this petition now and demand that the Irish government cancel any plans they may have to impose such extreme measures for passing into law what are considered by many to be excessive, unjust and unnecessary restrictions by respecting,  promoting, protecting and fulfilling the right to protest. 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
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